Bees Knees Artistry
Art That Melts In Your Mind
   Home      What's Encaustic?

                        


In 1956 a film entitled 'Lust For Life' was made about the life and times of the great artist Vincent Van Gogh. His creative output was enormous and he was known to have painted with great speed. One scene in the film involves Vincent (played by Kirk Douglas) talking - more like arguing really - with fellow artist Paul Gauguin (played by Anthony Quinn). Paul seems not to like the paintings and dismisses them out-of-hand.

Paul, "You paint to fast!"
To which Vincent replies, "You look to fast!"
I mention this fact because to paint 'Encaustic' is to be purely in the moment.    

Encaustic, comes from the Greek word 'enkaustikos' which when translated means to 'heat' or to 'burn'. This term was first used in 1601. 'Encaustic' paining is literally hot (bees wax) paining; one where you add pigments of color to the melted wax. So, living in the moment is a must in this medium as once the wax is melted - usually on a hotplate - and applied, your time is short with which to be creative before it cools and hardens. 


                                                                                            

But, should you sit back and study the work for that extra moment there are other ways to 'sculpt' the cooled wax. You can scrape or gouge some of it off with specialized tools or one can quickly re-heat spots with a heating gun and tweak from there. Naturally you have an endless palette of colors to mix into the wax, the same as any oil-based painter. Some of the items I use to create the work includes: electric iron, hotplate, heating gun, blow torch, heated stylus and stove top. I paint on paper, cards and treated wood panels of varying sizes. As well, metal tools and special brushes are a definite must in my studio and the effects created are endless. 

But even though the paintings materialize quickly this does not mean that they do not stand the test of time. Over 3000 years ago Greek shipbuilders began using beeswax to caulk the hulls of their ships. It worked great for keeping out the sea but not very appealing to the eye. They decided to add resins for hardness and color. A new medium was born and gravitated into everyday life with artists of the day doing great paintings, pottery and of course ships! There is a very vibrant textured quality to this art form that pulls you in with its depth-of-field. 

Centuries after the Greeks mastered the art form it made its way into Egyptian culture. Many of the mummies of the day were buried with their actual portraits done in colored wax on their cases. And, because of the climate once unearthed (in modern times) these works of art still looked as vibrant and beautiful as the day they were placed into the tomb. 

Wax melts at 100 C (212 F). I mention this as when I first began using this technique I did several paintings for my children, who live in the British Virgin Islands, and their concern was that the work would melt hanging on their walls. I know it's hot in the Caribbean but not that hot! Naturally, any painting - regardless of medium - should be respected and not placed into direct sun as it will cause the colors to fade (like in an oil painting). Otherwise, it should last as long - or longer - than a Vincent Van Gogh original!